Friday, 7 February 2014

How To Properly Care For A Domestic Rabbit

In my 23 years of life I have owned 4 rabbits, a guinea pig and 8 Syrian hamsters, meaning learning alot along the way. So much so infact that I feel alot of the information is worth while passing on especially when I have very sadly lost pets due to not being completely prepared as an owner. 

I have known a few people who have looked into getting rabbits in particular and I have been asked advice, so here it is all in one place with links to other knowledgeable sites and such I have found as well as lots more.
Lets get started.


Diet

Just like humans (and most other living creatures) a rabbits food intake is important. Too much and the wrong things cause them to become overweight and that is a very bad thing for a little creature. Sadly, when I was a small child my first rabbit became so overweight that she was unable to properly clean herself and had to be put to sleep at a young age.
Not only the amount but the type of foods your rabbit eat is extremely important too. They are the animal version of a vegan and with sensitive little tummys, only able to handle plant based foods.
Did you know that 80% of their diet should consist of hay?! I didn't until a couple years ago when researching why my Bunny wasn't feeling too good.
Other than that they need a good supply of fresh vegetables but there are certain ones they should stay away from or eat in moderation - for example it is widely known that rabbits eat carrots, however they should only ever actually get them as a rare treat as they are high in sugar!
Also, the dry, bagged rabbit food that you buy from the pet shop is not necessary part of their diet at all and the muesli with grains in should really be avoided. If they are fed these it should only add up to about 4.5% of their overall food intake.
Always provide fresh, clean drinking water. Some may prefer a bottle but my little guy drinks from a bowl like a dog!


Exercise

Unfortunately this point is over looked by many people and poor little rabbits that are bought as pets for children are kept locked in hutches and cages for a large percentage of their lives, usually after the novelty has worn off. Whether your rabbit is an indoor or outdoor pet they still need to be getting out and about for a run for a minimum of 3 hours a day!!
I am very lucky to have a spare bedroom and a 'study' which have turned into Baker and Bunny's bedrooms, meaning Bunny is never in a cage. He is out in his room 24/7 and has run of the house in the afternoon when Baker is napping and again once Baker has gone to bed.
BUT, if your rabbit happens to be an outdoor rabbit you need to make sure they have access to a 'run' that gives them room to run and jump (as rabbits love to dart about) whilst still being covered over protecting them from other predators. Shady and Snowdrop, the rabbits I had as a child used to love nothing better than exploring our back garden, climbing into rockerys and nibbling my Mam's plants. If this is the case you must always ensure there are no gaps in the fence, or escape routes and defiantly supervise them. 



Living Space

I am a big believer that rabbits should not be kept in hutches. Full stop. And this page of the rabbit welfare site proves exactly why 'A Hutch is Not Enough'.  Though obviously hutches are the common housing option, alongside cages, many of which are actually too small. The rabbits living quarters is advised to be at least 6 times the length of your little guy while outstretched or with a run attached to give constant access to a larger area.
In the wild the buns will apparently cover up to the distance of 30 football pitches, have strong limbs and fiesty attitudes so this is why it is necessary for their physical and mental health to have room to move around.
Within the living space they need a separate 'potty' area or plastic litter tray, enough space for sleeping quarters to be separate from this and their food and water, as well as bordom breaking toys to keep them entertained. I also switch up the contents and layout of Bunny's room every week to make sure he doesn't get too bored!
It needs to be cleaned often. A damp, dirty space can lead to things such as 'Hock Sores' on the rabbits feet this eventually leads much worse issues, as well as other health problems.


Time and Money

Like taking on any animal they are a cost to add to your household outgoings. With hay and straw for food and bedding, fresh vegetables, toys, cleaning materials, vet trips (not only when they are ill but to neuter and vaccinate them!), the pounds add up making them just as expensive as a dog to own - don't just think it's just the initial outlay with a couple of quid for rabbit muesli now and again.
Take all that and double it. See rabbits are sociable animals and live in pairs or groups so it's best to have two for company. Your company is essential as well and this is where time comes in. They need quality time with you, regularly and often to form a friendship, trust and feeling of safety when being handled.




Other

Other important points to acknowledge are:

Have both male and female rabbits neutered.  
Here's why:
- It prevents unwanted baby bunnies. They may be cute but with thousands and thousands of rabbits already living in rescue centres we don't need to add to the growing number.
- It stops aggression and fighting between both sexes and towards you. 
- Bucks (boys) won't spray all over your house!
- It's easier to litter train them.
- If not done, female rabbits are at a high (80%) risk of developing cancer cutting their lives short.

Some plants and vegetables are not suitable for your rabbit.
Check this website with foods to avoid!

They need special attention taken towards their teeth and nails. 
With a proper diet their teeth shouldn't become much of a problem as hay helps to keep them in shape. Their nails on the other hand will need clipped, which you can do at home with proper clippers. I have them...but Bunny isn't a fan, so I would rather pay the £8.00 every 3 months or so meaning he hates the vet and not me! 

You don't need to bathe your rabbit!!
Infact they are really clean creatures and if you watch them for longer than 5 minutes they are likely to have a little groom in front of you. Most do not like to get wet and it can be very stressful for them. Their skin is delicate and they are sensitive to heat, so when they are wet they may even develop hypothermia.

Rabbit proof your home.
If, like Bunny, they are going to have access to the house do the rabbit equivalent of baby proofing. They are nibblers and need wires to be hidden to prevent temptation haha. 



Another helpful website can be found here!
And on behalf of poorly looked after bunnies everywhere, please sign this petition.

Overall I urge anyone that is adopting or buying any animal whatsoever to put alot of time in and fully research every aspect of your chosen pet before bringing them home! It will give them the healthiest and happiest life as well as bring you the most enjoyment out of an appreciative new best friend! Thank you for reading - I hope you found some of this useful! 




4 comments:

  1. I have always wanted a rabbit! But was never allowed because I had a cat!
    Maybe when I have my own house :)

    DarlingSophie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aww, so cute! The girls who lived here before us had a rabbit in the living room, I was secretly hoping they would keep it =)

    Corinne x
    www.skinnedcartree.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. OMG they're adorable! I've never had one! We've always had cats in the family but not had my own pet yet, I think we'll wait until we have our own house and then maybe get a cat or dog, can't wait!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Awh. I know this is about rabbits, and I LOVE the information (because I have always had an interest in rabbit companionship), but holy Hannah did this make me want to bring another rat into my life (I used to keep them, eons ago, and haven't for, well, eons)! Very cool article - thank you for writing it! :)

    ReplyDelete

Every comment you leave puts a smile on my face.
Thank you for reading, I highly appreciate it. :)